In 2015, Tom Petty opened up about one of his career regrets: the Confederate flag.

'When they wave that flag, they aren't stopping to think how it looks to a black person.'

Petty performs in 2014. Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images.

Legendary musician Tom Petty passed away Monday, Oct. 2, 2017 at age 66. During his more than 40 years making music, Petty won three Grammys, earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a true icon who helped shape the future of rock and roll.

There's no shortage of positive stories and playful anecdotes about the singer being shared in the wake of his death, but there's one story in particular that stands out for its humanity as well as its connection to current events.


That story, of course, is about the time Tom Petty expressed regret for his early-career use of Confederate flag imagery.

In 1985, Petty released an album called "Southern Accents."

Originally from Gainesville, Florida, Petty set off to make a concept record about the South — though he later admitted that it lost that "concept" thread along the way. In marketing the record and the tour that followed its release, Petty made use of some pretty heavy Confederate flag imagery.

Petty in a 1986 documentary about the making of "Southern Accents." Image via Richard Schenkman/Vimeo.

30 years after the record came out, Petty sat down with Rolling Stone to discuss the Confederate flag, saying he had a few regrets about his relationship to the symbol.

In the interview, which took place hours after South Carolina decided to remove the flag from its statehouse grounds in 2015, Petty showed himself as a man unafraid to admit his mistakes. Describing the flag as "the wallpaper of the South" when he was growing up, Petty explained that in 1985, he hadn't really put a whole lot of thought into what it symbolized.

Two years after he and the band had stopped touring in support of that specific record, Petty noticed more and more fans at his shows were showing up decked out in Confederate memorabilia.

"One night, someone threw [a Confederate flag] onstage," he recalled. "I stopped everything and gave a speech about it. I said, 'Look, this was to illustrate a character. This is not who we are. Having gone through this, I would prefer it if no one would ever bring a Confederate flag to our shows again because this isn't who we are.'"

Petty's moment of self-reflection is a lesson for us all.

Recognizing our mistakes, and correcting for them is one of the most important things we can do as human beings. It's how we grow as people and as a society.

Petty noted that he did find it kind of bizarre that the U.S. seems to be one of the only places where citizens continue to fly the flag of an unrecognized "country" that went to war here and lost but that he understands its contemporary use doesn't necessarily stem from a hateful or racist place. Still, he hoped that others would rethink their support for it, like he did.

Petty performs in 2014. Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images.

"But when [people] wave that flag, they aren't stopping to think how it looks to a black person," he wrote. "I blame myself for not doing that. I should have gone around the fence and taken a good look at it. ... It was dumb and it shouldn't have happened. Again, people just need to think about how it looks to a black person. It's just awful. It's like how a swastika looks to a Jewish person. It just shouldn't be on flagpoles."

So thank you, Tom Petty — for the music as well as the powerful lessons about empathy and self-reflection.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

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Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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